Monday, April 21, 2014

Active Mana Regen for Healing

It's not in the patch notes, but the data-miners for Warlords of Draenor have discovered a plan to give all healers a form of active mana regen. For Holy Paladins, this means Divine Plea becomes a Holy Power finisher which returns mana:

Divine Plea
3 Holy Power
Instantly regain 4.5% of maximum mana.

Now I don't know if this is final, as it wasn't in the latest patch notes. But in my opinion, active mana regen is a bad idea for healers.

First, it is an extra button. Right now, healers may have 5-6 dedicated heal buttons, and we'll have to allocate another button for mana regen. When Blizzard is trying to cut down on ability bloat, adding more buttons is not a good idea.

Second, the presence of active mana regen will invariably make fights more deadly, leading to a less fun healing environment.

Essentially, from a healing perspective, a raid fight is divided into periods of heavy damage and light damage. During heavy damage, mana consumption goes up. During light damage, mana consumption is minimal. A properly designed fight ensures that the healer uses all their mana.

As a heavily simplified example, let's say a healer has 1000 mana. During heavy damage, she spends about 10 mana/second. During light damage, she spends about 5 mana/second. So a perfect fight might require 60 seconds of heavy damage and 80 seconds of light damage.

Now add in active mana regen. Active mana regen means that during the light damage periods, the healer spends even less mana, and may even have positive mana gain. Let's say the healer moves to 0 mana/second because she's hitting her active mana button. That means that, in order to challenge the healer, the fight must now have 100 seconds of heavy damage and 40 seconds of light damage. Or alternatively, heavy damage must be more extreme, in order to make the healer spend more mana.

Both paths lead to deadlier fights, fights where mistakes are more likely to result in a death.

The history of WoW healing has been that whenever mana regen increases, throughput increases, and damage skyrockets to balance, and the healing environment becomes less forgiving, more spammy, and less fun. Adding active mana regen is just to trigger that cycle faster, and put another skill barrier between those who are the best at squeezing in regen abilities, and those who are not as good.

In my opinion, the best healing environments have resulted whenever "overheal" becomes important. When healers are focused on reducing their overheal and becoming more efficient, incoming damage is at a reasonable level and fights are simply more fun because people aren't getting destroyed in two or three global cooldowns. Whenever efficiency gets thrown out the window in favor of throughput, healing becomes less strategic and more frantic, and just less fun.


  1. But all these also assume fights that are the same as live, when Blizz has mentioned they're intending to change that model up.

    (I also think that you didn't factor in the active regeneration boost on the heavy side when you did your "comparison".)

    Not to mention that with some heals being cut out entirely, that leaves button room for an active heal. Not to mention that giving Holy Pallies a choice about what to use their holy power on can make for interesting choices during the fight.

    Scholar in FF14 works on a pretty active regeneration model, which is one of the reasons I actually really like the class. It makes use of a button that regenerates a fixed percentage of your max MP, and also gives you up to 3 charges of a "buff" that activates a few powers: One gives an area shield that reduces damage taken to people within it, one is an instant percentage-based heal, and one is an instant damage spell that recovers some of your HP and MP. While popping the main recovery button is basically something you should do on cooldown (unless your MP is full or you still have the charges), there's still an interesting use for the charges. You can hold them to react to fight mechanics, or spend them to get some extra MP back. And the damage version is always useful, so it's something that can be fired right before you refresh the charges.

    It almost reads like the addition of this new holy power finisher is meant to fill a similar niche. If you don't need a healing finisher, then instead of letting holy power generation rot, you can recover some mana. If you need more healing, then you'd use one of the other finishers, instead of just hitting one because what else where you going to do?

    There's also more knobs that can be turned to make more "active" healing feel better for the player, but keep the same effective mechanic.

    For Paladins, based on what Blizz has been mentioning, it sounds like Holy Light and Flash of Light are going to be basically merged. That means that Paladins will have an AoE heal, a fast and weak heal, and a slow and strong heal; all of which cost about the same amount of MP. These can be changed around to encourage a mix of spells, and to make active regeneration more appealing or interesting.

    To go back to FF14, Scholars have a base heal, a weaker heal that puts an absorb shield equal to the amount healed on the target, and a weak AoE heal that puts an absorb shield on the targets. The non-core heals cost double what the core heal does. While the core heal is more expensive then base regeneration, it's still something that can more or less be spammed throughout the fight without needing to worry too much about MP. However, because the two bubbles are far more costly, fights that require their use (or players who want to use them) also means more active MP management, which makes the active regeneration tools very interesting.

    And remember: FF14 is a game where the "heavy" hits generally only deal no more then 25% of the tank's HP, unless it's a fight mechanic you're intended to deal with in a manner other then soaking. And from what Blizz has been saying, this is the kind of model they want to have.

  2. Active mana regeneration provides room for mistakes. If you chew through too much mana, you can recover if your cohealers can cover for you and you spend some time repenerating mana instead. This is slightly. Ore interesting than the ye olde 5 second rule we had in Vanilla, because we're still doing things rather than sitting and doing nothing.

    It also provides a choice. Do you spend your secondary resource on free healing, or a chunk of mana? I actually wonder how it'll stack up against Light of Dawn/Eternal Flame/Word of Glory, because that 4.5% base mana will have to be able to be turned into similar amounts of healing to make it worthwhile unless you're completely empty and have no way of generating holy power.

    I mentioned on Twitter that the most fun I had with Divine Plea was the glyph to make it a 5 second cast instead of the 9 second self-cleave. It became a skill shot then, trying to find the best time you could afford a 5 second cast to get back a huge chunk of mana. This turns said skill shot into a longer-term resource management question, which for healers has almost always been a thing.

    My biggest concern is more about cool downs and such. Are we going to be able to spam this? If I use Holy Avenger, will I be able to regenerate my entire mana pool in 20 seconds? I think the idea is sound, the execution is flawed.

  3. I don't agree that active mana regen is a bad thing (though one'll have to wait and see how Blizzard implements it). Coming from SWTOR I actually found it odd how in current WoW, if nobody is taking damage but you're not on full mana, you can do nothing but twiddle your thumbs. Doesn't exactly make for very engaging gameplay.

  4. Well, we'll have to see how it turns out.

    My favorite healing fight has always been Vezax. (Regenerating Mana and Healing) So that colours all my thinking.

    @Shintar, to a certain degree, SWTOR enforces efficiency by increasing regen when your resource is full (for mercs/ops). So that pushes healers to keep their regen high and their playstyle efficient. At least, that's how I understand it (I don't play a healer in SWTOR).

    In my experience, whenever healers stop caring about overheal--and this includes using mana regen tools to gain back mana--the healing environment goes bad.

  5. Lol, I love strategic healing, and I hated Vezax. We never did the hard mode, so in practice the only thing it achieved for me was to turn mana regeneration into a really annoying mechanic for one fight.

    I think it's strange that you express a preference for mana to matter, but don't want to worry about regen.

    What you say about SWTOR healing is true, but that just shows that resource regeneration is something that's always on your mind in that game. And you always have the option of, instead of spending resources on a big heal, use an ability to regenerate directly at the cost of a global cooldown (Sage) or use a tiny free heal to "spend time" while your bar regenerates. It's very rhythmic and never leaves you in a situation where you can't do anything.